I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling on the GNCC Ironman race I did last Sunday.
It was muddy. Joe and I rode bicycles around the easily accessible places before the race and could see that everything that we near the rivers and creeks was soggy and rutted. The trail that weaved through the woods had heavy clay-walled troughs. After our recon I decided that a cautious approach to every trail problem was my best option. Even if I wasted time by stopping to assess options during the race that would be better than digging out or picking myself up after rushing in. The track map is posted here.
I got an average start and entered the woods in 4th place. I consciously held back and was deliberate with my line selection and tried hard to block out the riders around me in those early minutes. But like an amateur I started up one hill way too tentatively and lost momentum halfway up. I snapped back to race mode and helplessly watched riders pass me one at a time. Then the same thing happened on the next big hill. I was loosing time and confidence by the mile and it was still only the opening lap.
I came around to the scoring tent in 4th still. I didn’t expect that but I tried to keep things in check and returned to thinking and riding conservatively. I remember feeling fatigued really early on. The mud was so thick and persuasive. When I got tired it was hard to keep my balance and I’d simply tip over because my reactions were too slow. Getting back going again winded me a few times and I’d lose even more time while I pinged my way down the trail getting my breath back. But I didn’t do anything as dramatic as this on Ironman hill.
It’s always amazing to me how much goes on during a 3-hour race, most of which I’d forgotten about. There was a guy I passed in my class with no goggles and I thought, “keep it steady and put time on him – he can’t see,” yet he and I passed each other back and forth several times. And I must have been hit by something during the race because my backside hurts. My shin has a big scrape on it yet I don’t know what hit it. My side panel was barely hanging on but I don’t remember it flapping while I raced.
At the end of lap 4 I was shown the the 2 laps to go board. I remember trying to think positive about that. The race had felt really long to me so it was difficult to feel good when I told myself, “only 2 to go, you can do it!” Luckily (and embarrassingly) my 5th lap was so slow that I only did one more lap before finishing the race. I ended up 3rd in the Senior A class and 67th overall. Those numbers aren’t too bad but when I looked at my lap times I wasn’t too impressed with myself. I was over 12 minutes down on the winner in my class and losing 12 minutes per lap to the XC1 and XC2 class leaders. I can’t expect to ride anywhere near as fast as the pros but losing that much time per lap is pathetic.
Ok. So what to do, if anything. Am I just too old and worn out to demand more of myself? Am I sick or burned out and that keeps me from doing better? Did everyone else suddenly find another gear and I’m already topped out? Or, did I simply miss the mark fitness-wise and talk myself out of a decent result by letting early race mistakes bog me down? I think it’s a little of all this and more. Time to take some time off.
Another thing that stuck with me again this year was the parking lot chaos. The wail of V8 engines, plumes of diesel exhaust, and stench of burned-up catalytic converters were abundant because the much and mire filled every parking lot. With 12,000 spectators on hand there were lots cars and trucks that needed help getting out.
One of the crazy things about our racing is how Joe and I often talk about what we’ll do at next year’s Ironman. That was on the drive home. We’re demented, I know.